101 Eminent Academics Write To EPW Board Over Editor's Departure

15/01/2016 6:58 PM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:25 AM IST
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There is a cold war brewing at the venerable Economic and Political Weekly (EPW) and since it involves some very eminent scholars, academics and editors, the tussle is all very genteel and after reading long and multiple correspondence, you would still be none the wiser about what the matter really is.

Broadly, it seems like there is a difference of opinion between C. Rammanohar Reddy, the editor of EPW, and the board of the Sameeksha Trust that owns the magazine. The board includes such weighty names as historian Romila Thapar, economist Deepak Nayyar and sociologist Andre Beteille, among others.

The difference seems to be over the editor's plans for the 50th anniversary of the EPW. A special volume on Indian history and a film on the magazine has been planned. The board is apparently not very impressed, or wanted things to be done differently. And the editor, who had been planning to step down anyway, announced his departure abruptly and ahead of the celebrations.

The board has accepted his decision to leave. Besides, it has not included him in the search committee for the new editor, and it has also not given him a continuing role, such as, let's say, as a member of the board itself.

Thus far it seems like small internal matters of an organization. But EPW is no ordinary organization.

It is a deeply beloved publication and institution among scholars and academics interested in India. To be noticed as an academic, you must pass through the portals of the EPW early and often. Its readership is small, but staggeringly influential. And Reddy is seen as an editor who ably led the magazine after the departure of the legendary Krishna Raj, who edited EPW for 35 years. The goodwill enjoyed by EPW and its editors really has no parallel in India.

And now, some of its most influential readers feel the editor has been wronged. They have come together and written a letter to the trustees. They want Ram Reddy to both be part of the search committee for the next editor, and also be named to the board of trustees.

And if the board has some weighty names, the collective academic might of those who have come out supporting the editor, might make you faint. It is an honour roll of scholarship on India, a parade of brilliance in economics, history, statistics, sociology, anthropology and others. There is even a Nobel prize winner thrown in there for good measure. Gulp.

Ram Reddy, you lucky lucky man.

Read the full letter here:

January 15, 2016

Letter to the Trustees of Sameeksha Trust

Dear Trustees,

We write to you today as longstanding admirers of EPW and as proud members of the “EPW community” that has benefited from the existence of this unique and high-quality journal. We wish to express our concern at what we have heard of the unusual circumstances in which the incumbent Editor of the Economic and Political Weekly, Dr. Rammanohar Reddy, who had decided to step down in April 2016 but had agreed to continue as Editor-in-Chief or in some other position as requested by the Board of Trustees, has chosen to formally announce that he is resigning from his position as Editor and severing all links with the institution.

In our view, Ram Reddy’s decision to accept the role of Editor at a crucial juncture in the history of the journal, despite the considerable personal (and economic) sacrifice it involved, was only the first indication of his commitment to the journal and its objectives. In the eleven years since then, he has succeeded in transforming the journal into a consistently excellent and contemporary periodical, which is widely seen as an internationally unrivalled journal –- one that combines fine scholarship with social conscience. He has done much to streamline organisational functioning, significantly improve and diversify journal content, stabilise the journal’s financial position, mobilise additional resources to expand editorial staff and enable EPW to have its own office, give EPW a strong online presence with commercially marketed archival access, and strengthen the EPW Research Foundation.

In sum, Ram Reddy as Editor did an exceptional job of re-energizing and contemporizing EPW at a time when many felt it was showing its age and at risk of losing its edge. All this he did in a self-effacing and accommodating style that has won him respect and admiration across ideological lines.

It would indeed be profoundly unfortunate if such dedication, personal sacrifice, and unstinting effort from an extremely successful Editor were to end in an unhappy and ungracious parting of the ways between him and the EPW Board of Trustees. We understand that the Board had questioned the appropriateness of his efforts to produce a set of volumes and a documentary to commemorate the completion in 2016 of fifty years of the journal’s existence, even though he had organised the required funding from outside. In addition, he had been excluded from any role in the future governance of the journal and also kept out of the formal process of finding a successor, even though he clearly is the person most thoroughly involved with and informed about the editorial and financial conditions and requirements of the journal, and therefore conscious of its future needs. We believe that involving him as a member of the Board of Trustees would be a natural next step following his retirement, and one that would be widely welcomed in the broader community of contributors and readers of EPW.

We therefore sincerely request the Board of Trustees to reconsider its decisions in this regard, so that all of us feel secure about the future of the journal and can participate with full enthusiasm in the celebrations to mark the fifty years of EPW’s existence. We propose that Ram Reddy be asked to take up and continue the activities he had planned to celebrate this anniversary. We also strongly urge that he be included and given a role in the process of selecting the new Editor, and that such a selection be done in an open and transparent manner with all Trustees invited to be part of that process. We believe that in the interests of continuity and to build on the achievements registered during his tenure, it would be ideal if Ram Reddy is persuaded to take on a role in the transition to a new editorial regime and in the future governance of the EPW, preferably as a Trustee.

The progressive and democratic character and legacy of the EPW all suggest that once they appoint the Editor, the Chairman and Trustees of Sameeksha Trust, who are non-executive Trustees, must scrupulously respect his or her editorial independence and judgment and must not seek to exercise hands-on control over the way EPW is managed and run, as long as the Editor keeps the Board of Trustees informed. The EPW is in effect a public institution, not only because it receives substantial support from public sources like the Reserve Bank of India, the UGC and the ICSSR, but because, as Ram Reddy puts it in his letter announcing his departure, finally, “it is the larger ‘EPW community’ of writers, readers, staff, and a large circle of associates that has looked after it through good times and bad and helped it grow.”

We are all deeply committed to maintaining the democratic, progressive, and independent character of the EPW. It is in that spirit that we write to you: in the hope and expectation that these suggestions will be taken on board in the decisions that you make in the days ahead.

In addition, we would be happy to help in any way that we can and that you find appropriate. We recall that within a few years of his taking over, Ram had a very fruitful brainstorming session with some members of the ‘EPW community’ on the future directions which EPW could take. We believe that such a meeting might be extremely useful in the current context, and if you choose to call such a meeting with some of us, we would be happy to attend.

With regards,

1. Itty Abraham, National University of Singapore

2. Dilip Abreu, Princeton University, USA

3. Isher Ahluwahlia, Chairperson, Indian Council for Research into International Economic Relations, Delhi

4. Montek Singh Ahluwahlia, Former Deputy Chairman, Planning Commission, Government of India

5. Sabina Alkire, George Washington University, USA

6. Venkatesh Athreya, former Professor, Bharatidasan University, Tamil Nadu

7. Amiya Kumar Bagchi, Institute of Development Studies, Kolkata

8. Abhijit Banerjee, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA

9. Pranab Bardhan, University of California, Berkeley, USA

10. Amita Baviskar, Institute of Economic Growth, Delhi University

11. Rana P. Behal, Delhi University

12. Aditya Bhattacharjea, Delhi School of Economics, Delhi University

13. Neeladri Bhattacharya, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi

14. Sabyasachi Bhattacharya, Institute of Development Studies, Kolkata

15. Akeel Bilgrami, Columbia University, New York, USA

16. Sugata Bose, Harvard University, USA

17. Achin Chakraborty, Director, Institute of Development Studies, Kolkata

18. Pinaki Chakraborty, National Institute of Public Finance and Policy, New Delhi

19. C. P. Chandrasekhar, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi

20. Partha Chatterjee, Centre for Studies in Social Sciences, Kolkata

21. Sudip Chaudhuri, Indian Institute of Management, Kolkata

22. Anuradha Chenoy, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi

23. Kamal Mitra Chenoy, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi

24. Angus Deaton, Princeton University, USA

25. Ashwini Deshpande, Delhi School of Economics, Delhi University

26. Satish Deshpande, Institute of Economic Growth, Delhi University

27. Ritu Dewan, Centre for Study of Society and Secularism, Mumbai

28. Biswajit Dhar, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi

29. Navroz Dubash, Centre for Policy Research, Delhi

30. Gopalkrishna Gandhi, Ashoka University, Delhi

31. Rajmohan Gandhi, University of Illinois, USA

32. Jayati Ghosh, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi

33. Ramachandra Guha, historian, writer, Bangalore

34. Irfan Habib, Aligarh Muslim University, Aligarh

35. K. N. Harilal, Centre for Development Studies, Thiruvananthapuram

36. Barbara Harriss-White, Oxford University, UK

37. Zoya Hasan, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi

38. Neeraj Hatekar, Director, Department of Economics, University of Mumbai

39. Himanshu, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi

40. Christophe Jaffrelot, Director, CERI, Universite Sciences Po, Paris

41. Devaki Jain, economist, Delhi

42. Praveen Jha, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi

43. T. Jayaraman, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai

44. SurinderJodhka, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi

45. Mary E. John, Centre for Women’s Development Studies, Delhi

46. Chitra Joshi, Delhi University

47. Kalpana Kannabiran, Director, Council for Social Development, Hyderabad

48. K. P. Kannan, Centre for Development Studies, Thiruvananthapuram

49. S. Mahendradev, Director, Indira Gandhi Institute of development Research, Mumbai

50. Mukul Kesavan, Jamia Millia Islamia University, Delhi

51. Sushil Khanna, Indian Institute of Management, Kolkata

52. Sunil Khilnani, Kings College, London

53. Atul Kohli, Princeton University, USA

54. K. L. Krishna, Delhi School of Economics, Delhi

55. N. Krishnaji, economist, Hyderabad

56. Maithreyi Krishnaraj, researcher, Mumbai

57. Sashi Kumar, Chairman, Media Development Foundation, Chennai

58. Kalyani Menon-Sen, researcher, Delhi

59. Shireen Moosvi, Aligarh Muslim University, Aligarh

60. Chandan Mukherjee, Ambedkar University, Delhi

61. Rinku Murgai, The World Bank, New Delhi

62. Dilip Nachane, Indira Gandhi Institute for Development Research, Mumbai

63. R. Nagaraj, Indira Gandhi Institute for Development Research, Mumbai

64. S. Narayanan, former Ambassador of India to WTO

65. Pulin Nayak, Delhi School of Economics, Delhi

66. Parthapratim Pal, Indian Institute of Management, Kolkata

67. Suhas Palshikar, University of Pune, Pune

68. Rohini Pande, Harvard University USA

69. S. Parasuraman, Director, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai

70. Prabhat Patnaik, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi

71. Utsa Patnaik, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi

72. Seeta Prabhu, economist, Mumbai

73. Srinath Raghavan, Centre for Policy Research, Delhi

74. Indira Rajaraman, Member, Central Board of Governors, RBI

75. N. Ram, Chairman, Kasturi & Sons Ltd, The Hindu group of newspapers, Chennai

76. M.V. Ramana, Princeton University, USA

77. T. T. Rammohan, Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad

78. Mahesh Rangarajan, Ashoka University, Delhi

79. Vikas Rawal, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi

80. Amit Shovon Ray, Director, Centre for Development Studies, Thiruvananthapuram

81. Partha Ray, Indian Institute of Management, Kolkata

82. D. Narasimha Reddy, Institute of Human Development, New Delhi

83. Tirthankar Roy, London School of Economics and Political Science, London

84. E. A. S. Sarma, former Secretary, Government of India

85. Abhijit Sen, former Member, Planning Commission, Government of India

86. Pronab Sen, Chairman, National Statistical Commission

87. Mihir Shah, former Member, Planning Commission, Government of India

88. Dipa Sinha, Ambedkar University Delhi

89. Atul Sood, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi

90. Ravi Srivastava, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi

91. S. Subramaniam, Madras Institute of Development Studies, Chennai

92. Padmini Swaminathan, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Hyderabad

93. S. K. Thorat, Chairman, ICSSR, New Delhi

94. Jeemol Unni, Director, Institute of Rural Management, Anand

95. A. Vaidyanathan, Madras Institute of Development Studies, Chennai

96. Achin Vanaik, Delhi University

97. K. Velupillai, economist, Stockholm, Sweden

98. K. Venugopal, former Secretary, Government of India

99. M. Vijayabaskar, Madras Institute of Development Studies, Chennai

100. Robert Wade, London School of Economics and Political Science, London

101. Yogendra Yadav, Swaraj Abhiyan

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